Bristol, Tenn. to conduct independent public health assessment regarding odor at Virginia landfill

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BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – Bristol, Tennessee leaders held a meeting Tuesday to discuss the city’s next steps in addressing concerns over the landfill across the state line in Bristol, Virginia.

This comes as residents have been asking for a solution for months regarding the strong odor coming from the landfill site.

The landfill is located on Shakesville Road on the Virginia side of the state line but close enough to Tennessee that residents there have been complaining about the stench arising from the site as well.

On Tuesday, Bristol Tennessee City Council members met to discuss the next steps in alleviating the stench. They said their main priority at this time is determining if there are any long-term public health risks to the landfill’s neighbors in both Tennessee and Virginia.

“This has been a significant public nuisance for our community for a little over a year. It has become more pronounced in recent months. We do hear their concerns and we want to fully quantify the public health risk that may or may not be present,” said Bristol, Tennessee City Manager Bill Sorah.

Aside from the unbearable odor, residents have expressed their worry about possible health risks, some even calling for the shutdown of the landfill. Bristol Tennessee city officials said Tuesday they are listening and they have retained their own toxicology firm to go to the landfill site and collect samples.

The city council also heard from environmental law counsel on Tuesday, as well as a toxicology firm that was retained by the city to evaluate the public health risks associated with the landfill. The city is now proceeding with a third party public health assessment.

“We are doing an independent health assessment to let our citizens in Bristol, Virginia as well as Bristol, Tennessee know if there’s any concerns or not,” said Bristol, Tennessee Mayor Mahlon Luttrell.

Luttrell said this follows a verbal agreement between Bristol, Va. and Bristol, Tenn. city attorneys to allow the independent crews to go to the landfill and collect samples.

“There does not appear to be a long-term public health risk,” said City Manager Sorah. “Certainly, we know that it is a nuisance. There are symptoms that can be associated with odors that our residents have indicated they are experiencing. But I think that we also need to look at the long-term and determine if there is a long-term public health risk associated with that.”

While city leaders heard from environmental counsel on possible actions that could be taken moving forward, they say they will wait for the full results of the health assessment to come back before they make any decision on what to do next.

“We really need to learn more of their work and their analysis before the city council determines future actions,” said Sorah.

Initial findings are expected in the coming weeks, with a full report expected by the end of this year.

“I think it’s important. You’ve got citizens that are very concerned about their health and the wellbeing of the community, children and families, businesses should be concerned about it as well. It’s very important that we help ease everyone’s mind if the data comes back saying that,” said Luttrell.

The findings will be made available to the community, and the city plans to host a public meeting so the toxicology firm can detail its analysis.

Bristol, Tenn. council members also weighed several different options at Tuesday’s meeting on how to directly help residents deal with the odor. One included possibly approaching the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office to inquire about creating a grant program locally where the city could provide HVAC units or air filtration devices for affected residents who qualify.

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